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I Read the News Today, Oh Boy.

| December 15, 2012

By Holland Cooke
Radio Consultant

BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Even as Americans were still processing the Oregon mall shootings came unthinkable new violence in Connecticut.

As the story unfolded, it was uncanny to witness how-far-ahead Twitter was, compared to all the news apps on my iPhone.  Not hearsay, but fact-checked posts, first from Connecticut-based media who were first on-site; then from stations and newspapers from neighboring states.  By 6:30 pm ET, letter-networks’ anchors were in-place for evening newscasts this gripping story dominated.

Talk radio hits and misses

Best-I-heard on Friday afternoon:

  • Stations that broke format, and kept spitting-out the-very-latest, as callers vented.
  • Gaping pauses in the president’s emotional remarks lost nothing in-translation to radio, and smart stations kept rotating chunks of The First Consoler’s carefully chosen words.
  • Over the weekend, smart stations kept it up, even if only peppering business-as-usual weekend how-to shows with appropriate-toned reminders that on-hour newscasts would update.

Worst-I-heard on Friday:

  • National talkers sounding oblivious as they tortured weary political narratives.
  • And one local blowhard SO self-centered that rambling about how-HE-felt-doing-HIS-job-that-day was a sad format caricature, and postponed the information flow that otherwise would’ve kept people sitting in parked cars, and quoting the station.

Take a lesson from the only news medium older than radio

Tip: Bookmark http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/default.asp, a valuable show prep tool for talk radio hosts and remaining radio news people.  It’s “Today’s Front Pages” from The Newseum, actual front pages from newspapers across the USA and around the world.

If there’s a medium more-challenged by new-tech news competitors than radio, it’s newspapers.  So they’re instructive to us, the second-oldest town crier.  On Saturday morning, Today’s Front Pages showed us how – and how well – newspaper front pages told the story, in compelling and succinct fashion, to arrest the scant attention.

And foreign front pages imply how we now must look to people in other countries; and foretell inevitable early-week talk radio conversation.

  • Over the weekend, lefty cable pundits were already taking-issue with the president’s suggestion that there’ll be time for gun talk later.  “When better than now?”
  • And after the weekend’s decent interval, radio righties will, predictably, push-back, resisting the rising tide of angst over assault weapons.  “Then they’ll come for YOUR gun.”  Or aping the NRA stonewall that we should wait for “all the facts.”

Music stations I heard were doing one-of-two-things:

  • Some acknowledged the top-of-mind story, and smart ones offered sister news/talk AMs’ on-hour newscasts as “the very latest.”
  • Others stayed in jukebox mode; some because they’re robotic and couldn’t do otherwise, others possibly deliberately, to offer escape.

Super-smart stations not only sounded different on-air; they made their web sites look different, the way those newspaper front pages did.

Bottom line?  Set-the-bar-higher than competing radio stations, many of which have cut resources to the point they’re unable to do this story justice.  Consider Twitter your competition, and exploit it.

See/hear/read more from consultant Holland Cooke at www.HollandCooke.com; and follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke.

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Category: Analysis